Today the Evening Standard carries a piece on Gautam Malkani’s much-hyped British Asian novel Londonstani, reviewed by Nirpal Singh Dhaliwal, author of the, um, much-hyped British Asian novel Tourism.
Guess what? He hates it. Notwithstanding the lunacy that goes with asking someone to review his direct competitor (think Noel Gallagher gushing over a new Damon Albarn record), it’s depressing trying to work out why Dhaliwal would agree, and take great relish in doing so, to rubbish the very image that will get them both their second book offer – that of pioneers heralding in the new era of British Asian fiction writing.
The first instinct is to assume he wants to be the only one (and to the credit of the famously ego-driven Hanif Kureishi, even he had the grace to be humble about Salman Rushdie’s literary genius). Dhaliwal’s book, which can be summed up thus – I’m a monster shagger, me, and Asian don’t you know, which makes the explicit descriptions of my screwing blonde birds all the more revolutionary – certainly shows a great disdain for all things Asian.
Taking a giant leaf from Julie Burchill and his wife Liz Jones (amusingly, there hasn’t been a single review published that hasn’t pointed out his better half’s credentials), Tourism thrives on shock and schlock – here is a book pandering to the Guardian reading contingency that will no doubt read it as a delicious pastiche where the traditional victim gets one over his oppressors by, well, screwing them.
His other reason for putting Londonstani in a negative light is one some of you might agree with. Without wanting to ruin the brilliant twist for you, I’ll sum it up thus: I’m a rudebwoy innit, don’t be callin’ me no Paki. It’s written entirely in rudeboy patwa, and unless you managed to read Irvine Welsh without wanting to eat your head after a while…. you’ll want to eat your head after a while.
But unlike Dhaliwal, who literally wanks over himself on every page, Gautam Malkani – media editor at the Financial Times – sets out to satirise a part of Asian life we can all relate to rather than ride on “the I’m Asian, but I don’t sound Asian” trend that’s giving literary agents everywhere hard-ons at the moment.
This is great news for aspiring (and in the case of yours truly, deeply bitter) Asian novelists out there. After years of books set over three generations, starting with a grandmother wafting her juices under a banyan tree in Pondicherry and ending with a sari-clad woman rollerblading in Leamington Spa, we can finally put forward our stories almost two decades after Kureishi, Rushdie and co first opened the doors (then promptly shut it) for us. If you’re Asian and have a book in you, the iron is hot – strike.
But Dhaliwal is in danger of buggering it up before you get the chance to slip yours in. It smacks of the whole Asian vs Asian thing that we’ve seen in everything from award ceremonies and PR companies to publications and websites – you name it, anyone doing something worthwhile in our industry has ten contenders on the sidelines eager to bring it down.
Dhaliwal might fancy himself a book reviewer as part of his many talents (although I can’t help but feel it would have been more apt for the Standard to ask him to review Asian Babes), for him to crucify a man on the same journey as him is at best, professional jealousy, at worst, a tragic reminder that we simply can’t get ahead if we see another Asian in the horizon joining the same race.
They’re both bound to lose anyway. I’m writing a novel, you see…
This is a guest article.
|Post to del.icio.us|
Filed in: Culture,Humour,Race politics